[rev-er-uhns, rev-ruhns] noun
a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration
The idea of a reverence for words came from one of the books I just finished reading. The book’s story takes place in a society where written words are symbols of the past, of an era of decadence that is no longer tolerated. Writing becomes sanctioned by the people of power, which means everything is aggrandized propaganda. One of the main characters has the job of “paper collector” and she goes around the city collecting all forms of non-sanctioned writing. She is supposed to destroy everything, but, as most of us would do, she hides bits of writing in her house. Later in the book, she makes shoes for her daughter out of the collected scraps of paper and secretly writes a hidden message in the layers of the paper shoes. Her daughter doesn’t discover the message at first. Instead, she discovers the loving and empowering message when life is at its lowest and she needs a sign of hope.
A reverence for words. I stopped everything just to mull it over. I wrote the words down on a stray sticky-note (my desk at home is littered with dozens of them). This is what I’ve been able to gather from my over-active mind and piece together:
Spoken words are sufficient in most cases. They get the job done. In much of our daily life, spoken words are merely habits of existing as cordial human beings, trying to navigate life on this crowded planet the best we can. Please. Thank you. How are you? Hold the elevator! Taxi!
In some instances, they are exactly the right poison, such as hurting someone with words. In comparison, if spoken sincerely and within the right circumstances and timing, they can lift someone’s spirit up beyond what they thought possible (such as genuine praise or the simple, yet emotionally charged sentence of “I love you.”).
Spoken words evolve with us. They can be dynamic or mundane. However, spoken words eventually dissolve. They mix with all of the air pollution and noise pollution. Floating around the atmosphere, spoken words become part of the din of humanity.
Written words have more lasting power—or so it would seem. Shakespeare’s brilliant ideas will retain their immortality through writing. The names recorded at Ellis Island may one day be forgotten, but as for now, they are a testament to the resiliency and hope of millions of people that came to America looking for and embarking upon a new life.
Sure, innumerable amounts of writing have been discarded and are probably lost forever. There are plenty of forgotten books, collecting dust on library shelves or moldering away in basements. Written words are not indestructible. They’re merely longer lasting and can withstand the test of time better than spoken words.
I will not be able to read every book ever written, nor is it likely I’ll finish the book I started writing, for that matter. My daughter may one day throw out many of the messages I have lovingly hand-written for her, keeping only a few sentimental and special pieces. Perhaps these will comfort her long after I am gone and the remembrance of my voice has faded. But how wonderful it is to know that books and other written works have survived throughout the ages, and will continue to do so! We just need to keep our reverence for words.